3/2/1916 Verdun: the clock is ticking

Preparations for the Verdun offensive are continuing. The Germans now have their artillery in place, more than 850 guns in total, including some super-heavy calibre weapons. The French defenders of Verdun have their own artillery pieces, but these are both outnumbered and outclassed by the German guns.

The Germans have used camouflage netting and other ruses to hide their artillery and other preparations, also concentrating their air force in the Verdun sector to disrupt the enemy’s reconnaissance flights. Preparations for the assault are continuing in the utmost secrecy, but as the day of the attack approaches it is harder and harder to hide from the French that something is up.

The impending assault is engendering a certain nervousness on the part of the German troops who will be staging it. The French at Verdun are seeing an increase in deserters coming from the German lines to surrender to them. Many of these are from Alsace, taken from France in 1870. The Alsatians are not particularly keen to throw away their lives in battle with their fellow Frenchmen.

The deserters and what they are seeing of the German preparations have convinced the local French commanders at Verdun that they will soon be facing a German onslaught. However, Joffre and the senior French commanders are not so sure. They think that any German attack at Verdun could just be a feint, with the main attack planned for elsewhere.

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